Estonian president Lennart Meri and prime minister Tiit Vahi over the weekend came to the defense of Estonia’s armed forces commander, Lt. General Alexander Einseln, who had been sharply attacked by Defense Minister Andrus Oovel during the week. Meri and Vahi conceded to Estonian media that Oovel’s criticism was more than merely his personal opinion; but maintained that Einseln had great achievements to his credit in building Estonia’s forces from scratch, and that the criticism was one-sided by focusing on the shortcomings. Oovel had publicly assailed Einseln for allegedly acting outside civilian control, appointing insufficiently qualified officers to senior positions, tolerating overspending on staff salaries, failing to establish a proper force structure, and neglecting troop training programs. Einseln responded in the Estonian media twice last week that the charges stemmed from Russian disinformation, and that Oovel’s opinion differed from that of Western military specialists. (13)
Einseln, 63, a retired US Army Colonel born in Estonia and who fled the Soviet occupation as a child, returned in 1992 to head the country’s nascent army. The allegations against him came in the wake of a scandal involving illegal arms trafficking by an officer on Einseln’s staff. Einseln’s term of service reportedly expires in 1996.
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